Boise’s Central Bench Neighborhood is excited about Franklin Park.
Some of the people who live there aren’t as excited about gas station company Maverik’s plan to build a store on the southwest corner of Franklin Road and Orchard Street — essentially the same piece of ground as the park. That kind of juxtaposition is unprecedented in Boise.
Objections to the Maverik store mostly fall into two categories: aesthetics and whether the kind of activity that happens at convenience stores is appropriate next to a park. The thought of people buying alcohol in the store and hanging out drunk in the park, or leaving trash from things they buy in the store, is a problem for some neighbors.
“Yes, I would be worried about that,” said Verna Hooper, who lives on Peg Street just south of the Franklin Park site and is looking forward to the park becoming a reality.
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Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway said it’s a concern for him, too.
“Where this is a neighborhood park, with a lot of young families that live in that area, we want to make sure they feel safe and comfortable being in their park,” Holloway said. “That piece — I’m not sure how we can mitigate that.”
I’m sure there’s always going to be people drinking some place.
Rosalie Wilson, owner of Rose’s Hair Shop
Other neighbors have a simpler concern: aesthetics. These people would like to see something more architecturally compatible with the park than a gas station.
“It’d be cool if it were just a park or something nice,” said Ben Kirby, who lives on Hilton Street just west of the park site. “A gas station’s not particularly interesting to me. There’s no shortage of gas stations. We don’t need another Maverik right there.”
Rosalie Wilson sees it differently. Wilson lives on the corner of Orchard and Peg streets. Her business, Rose’s Hair Shop, is just in front of her house.
She thinks a Maverik store will be a nice complement to the park.
“I’m hoping that I have grandchildren one day, and that we’d be able to just walk over and enjoy the park,” she said. “And get them treats — the grandkids.”
In 1905, the Boise Independent School District built Franklin School at what is now the Franklin Park site, said Dan Everhart, an architectural historian for Preservation Idaho.
Boise architecture legends Tourtelotte and Hummel designed the stone building. In 1926, the school district built the “new” Franklin School, a concrete structure also designed by Tourtelotte and Hummel.
The buildings took up only a fraction of the lot. The rest was a grassy play area. Over the years, Holloway said, people who lived in the neighborhood adopted the Franklin School playground as their unofficial park.
The school was torn down in early January 2010. Since then, the nearly eight-acre lot has been vacant. The neighborhood wanted a park, and the city of Boise wanted to provide it.
The going was slow. The city pushed a bond measure in 2013 that would have raised $760,000 to turn the interior three acres — the part that doesn’t have frontage on Orchard Street or Franklin Road — into a neighborhood park. The bond failed.
Later that year, the school district agreed to sell Boise the three acres for $395,000. Part of that agreement gave the city a six-month option to buy the 4.6 acres of frontage ground — more attractive for businesses because of its exposure to busy streets — for $1.24 million.
The city hoped to find a nonprofit organization or business whose mission fit the park to occupy the frontage property.
The Salvation Army was interested in putting a community center or gymnasium there, Holloway said, but that didn’t work out. He said the city fielded several other inquiries about the property, but none led to a deal.
The option to buy the frontage ground expired, and the city lost much of its influence over what can be built there. If Boise had simply bought the land, it could have turned the whole lot into a bigger park or traded it to a new owner with restrictions on how to develop it.
Instead, the school district auctioned the frontage property to the highest bidder.
I hope they take care of the weeds that are over there.
Verna Hooper, who lives across the street from the future Franklin Park
Maverik officially bought the frontage property, as well as the 7.3-acre lot where Cole Elementary had been located at the corner of Cole Road and Fairview Avenue, on Jan. 6, 2015. The company paid almost exactly the same price for the Franklin lot as the city considered paying for it.
Now, the city is poised to finally deliver Franklin Park. The City Council hasn’t allocated the money yet, Holloway said, but Parks and Recreation is ready to install grass, a watering system, pathways, parking spaces and maybe even restrooms as soon as he gets the go-ahead.
The rough expected completion date is somewhere around 2020, Holloway said. Amenities could include a playground, picnic shelter, a community garden or something else.
‘NEIGHBORHOOD GATHERING PLACE’
Maverik is adapting its store layout to meet city of Boise design standards, Todd Meyers, the company’s director of entitlements and planning, said in an email. The company does not have a rendering yet, he said.
Holloway said Maverik told the city that it plans to do something different than its traditional convenience store. That could include serving food in the store — a service provided at the Maverik at Nampa’s Middleton and Karcher roads.
“That would help with the park,” Holloway said. “The key is to create a neighborhood gathering place with this park.”
On the question of alcohol and the park, Maverik referred to its policies and training programs.
“Maverik will follow all applicable state and city laws for beer and tobacco sales,” government relations and licensing director Holly Robb said in an email. “Maverik is very committed to the safe and legal sale of alcohol and tobacco.”
Alcohol isn’t the only issue a convenience store next to a city of Boise park raises. Over the past year, the city has put an emphasis on encouraging healthy behavior and eating, especially at city-owned properties such as the zoo, airport and parks. That includes one initiative that established minimum percentages of all food and drink items sold at city-owned venues — such as vending machines at parks — that must meet established nutrition standards, including limitations on calories, fat, sugar and salt content.
Holloway hopes Maverik’s store collaborates with the spirit of those guidelines. So far, he’s willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
“Generally speaking, a business attached to a neighborhood park that sells unhealthy fast food, tobacco, alcohol and gas is probably not an ideal, compatible neighbor to the park,” he said. “Having said that, we haven’t seen a proposed design yet.”
The latest on Boise’s historic schools
Since 2008, the Boise School District has sold at least three lots where schools were once located. Here’s a look at those transactions and what’s happening on the land now:
Cole and Fairview
Cole Elementary, 7.29 acres
Date of sale: Jan. 6, 2015
Price: $2.37 million
Owner: Maverik, Inc.
Status: In planning phase for Maverik store
Orchard and Franklin — park
Franklin School, 3.04 acres
Date of sale: Dec. 9, 2013
Owner: city of Boise
Status: slated for development as city park
Orchard and Franklin — commercial
Franklin School, 4.74 acres
Date of sale: Jan. 6, 2015
Price: $1.23 million
Owner: Maverik, Inc.
Status: In planning phase for Maverik store, other commercial development
Curtis and Emerald
West Junior High, 16.6 acres
Date of sale: Feb. 20, 2008
Proceeds: $5.7 million
Owner: Hawkins Companies
Status: location of medical building, future development unclear
Source: Boise School District
Franklin School timeline
1905: Original Franklin School built
1926: New Franklin school built. Old building kept in place.
1934: Gym added to east side of new building, with help from the federal government's Public Works Administration program, also known as the New Deal
1950: Additions placed on new building's west side
Unknown date: Original school building demolished
1982: Franklin School listed on the National Register of Historic Places
2010: Franklin School demolished
Source: Dan Everhart, Preservation Idaho